8 Most Common Illnesses in Rescue Dogs

Every dog needs a good home. No dog should be left alone in the streets or in the hands of an owner who cannot give it the care and attention that it deserves. That is why rescue dogs should be given as much care and attention as possible because of how these canine pets were under living conditions less than ideal or were even actually abused by their previous owners.

But the problem with rescue dogs is that they are most likely not as healthy as any regular dog due to their living conditions and to how they were treated in their previous homes. As such, you can expect that these dogs come with some illnesses and health conditions you might need to look at first and take care of before trying to let them settle into their new homes.

Here Are The Eight Most Common Illnesses That Rescue Dogs Suffer From

1. Flea And Tick Infestation

When you rescue a dog from the streets or from a home that did not take care of it properly, the first thing you need to do is to check it for fleas and ticks. These tiny parasites are the most common problems that dogs face in their lifetime. If they are common in dogs living in good conditions, they are much more common in dogs that came from poor living conditions.

Often neglected by their previous owner, a rescue dog will most likely be infested with fleas, ticks, and other types of parasites. It takes some effort and concern on the part of an owner to make sure that the dog is as free from parasites as possible. That is why rescue dogs that came from a neglectful home are often riddled with fleas and ticks that you have to get rid of first.

There are plenty of medications you can use to help a dog’s flea and tick infestation. A
medicated bath is helpful, but plenty of owners would rather go for topical or spot-on treatments that kill parasites in no time. A rescue dog will most likely be infested with fleas and ticks. As such, you may want to use two or more methods to remove these parasites and to prevent them from coming back.

2. Canine Parvovirus

The canine parvovirus is one of the more common illnesses that dogs often face whenever they’re young. However, even older dogs suffer from this illness but not as common as younger dogs do. The canine parvovirus is a killer as it affects your dog’s intestinal tract as well as its other internal systems. And the problem is that this virus is easily contracted due to how the virus is able to live in different places for several months before coming into contact with your dog.

Rescue dogs are often prone to this canine parvovirus because the only way to prevent this illness is to vaccinate the dog as early as possible. Neglectful owners might not have given enough care and concern to their dogs to at least make sure that it is vaccinated. As such, it is expected that rescue dogs are more prone to this virus than other dogs are.

There is no cure for the canine parvovirus, but your vet can help treat it by managing the symptoms and by making sure the dog’s immune system is working well to fight off the illness.

But if the rescue dog is still healthy and free from the parvovirus, you have to get to a vet to have it vaccinated as early as you can so that you would not have to spend a lot of money treatments in case the dog gets infected.

3. Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is similar to the parvovirus in the sense that it is a killer. It is often the cause of many deaths in dogs and is quite common in puppies between three and six months old. This illness can cause several systems to fail until your dog succumbs to its condition and eventually dies.

Similar to the canine parvovirus, canine distemper is common in rescue dogs precisely because of how they are neglected by their previous owners. It is almost a necessity for you to have your dog vaccinated as early as possible to make sure that it will not suffer from distemper. But neglectful owners do not even have the time or the care to have their puppies vaccinated.

So as soon as you rescue a dog, you may want to take it to a vet to have it checked for signs and symptoms of distemper. This illness has no cure, and the best way for a vet to treat it is to manage its symptoms. In that sense, the only way for you to prevent it is to vaccinate your dog as early as possible.

4. Intestinal Worms

Intestinal worms are very common in rescue dogs due to how poor their previous living conditions were. These worms can easily contract worms from other pets and animals if their previous owners were not too careful enough to make sure that the environment is clean and sanitary. And when the worms can get into the dog’s internals, it can cause all kinds of problems in its digestive system.

Take the dog to the vet right away and assume that it has worms in its intestines. De-worming the dog is the best treatment available. But if the dog is already suffering from illnesses associated with the effects of these worms, extra veterinary care may be required to help manage the symptoms.

5. Malnourishment

Rescue dogs are often some of the most malnourished dogs you can find. Malnourishment does not only mean that the dog is skin and bones, but it can also pertain to an overfed dog that was left to become obese while being tied to a pole. In some cases, a dog may have been fed well but not with the right kind of food that has all the essential nutrients required by the canine.

Malnourishment is easy to remedy so long as it is not too serious. An obese malnourished dog should be placed on a strict diet and must be allowed to roam around freely for it to have some exercise. Meanwhile, skinny dogs should be given the right kind of food for them to regain their muscle. In some cases, the dog might be too malnourished that proper feeding might not do any good. If that happens, veterinary intervention might be necessary.

6. Kennel Cough

Kennel cough or Bordetella is a respiratory infection in dogs. It is commonly caused by a viral or even a bacterial infection that the dog may have contracted from other dogs in the surrounding area. And if your rescue dog came from a neglectful owner, it might have been living in bad conditions that were enough for bacteria and viruses to build up and infect the dog.

The best way to treat kennel cough is to take the dog to a vet to have it checked. The vet may prescribe antibiotics or may use cough suppressants to manage the dog’s symptoms. This condition is not fatal, but it may be an offshoot or the cause of other conditions that can be fatal.

7. Mange

Mange or skin conditions in dogs are caused by parasitic mites that dig their way through the dog’s skin to cause problems and to multiply in numbers. Usually, healthy dogs in clean living conditions are strong enough to fight off the infection and spread of these parasitic mites. But rescue dogs are more likely not as healthy as regular dogs are and are prone to suffering from these mites.

Veterinary care is necessary for you to help your dog recover from mange. Antibiotics may be the treatment of choice, but your vet may also prescribe a topical treatment that you apply directly onto the dog’s skin to help fight off the mite infection or to manage the symptoms.

8. Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease that affects dogs, cats, humans, and a lot of different mammals. The disease attacks the brain and the spinal cord to alter the way your dog acts. That is why rabid dogs are much more aggressive and are more likely to attack you for no reason at all. And the worst part is that rabies is fatal for both dogs and humans alike regardless of how it is contracted.

Rescue dogs are more likely to suffer from rabies because they are not given the shots they need to get early on. The rabies vaccine prevents this viral disease from developing at an early age. That is why dogs are given the vaccine as early as possible. But since rescue dogs are neglected, there is a chance that it is more prone to rabies or that it already has rabies.

If the rescue dog is rabid, keep your distance from it because of how rabies can be fatal if you get infected from a single bite. You need to bring the dog to the vet to have it vaccinated to protect it from rabies and to protect yourself and other people from the disease in case your dog happens to be quite aggressive.

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Lovelia Horn

I’m a certified crazy dog mom, a physical therapist (for hoomans), writer, animal rescuer, and foster home provider. Together with my hubby Ryan, I’ve fostered and helped look for forever homes for over a hundred shelter dogs in the Southern Illinois area. I mostly work with Puppy Rescue 911, Inc., a certified animal rescue organization based out of Chester, IL (home of Popeye!)

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